VOICES Notes and news on Collector's Corner releases
11 DEC 13 JASON SERINUS
One of America's most beloved holiday creations, the Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas, has returned. Now in a deluxe package from Fantasy.
It's housed in a colorful cardboard sleeve that doubles as an easy-to-assemble Christmas house complete with stand-up figures of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and Snoopy, the 14-track CD includes three delicious tunes ("Greensleeves," "Great Pumpkin Waltz," and "Thanksgiving Theme") that were not part of the original LP issue of the soundtrack to the 1965 animated CBS-TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. And thanks to Joe Tarantino's excellent new digital remastering, it also offers sound far superior to that on the original CD issue.
Given that I supplied the whistling "Voice of Woodstock" to the 1980 animated CBS-TV special, She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown, the fact that the Library of Congress honored the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas in 2012, when the recording's "cultural, historical or aesthetic significance" led to its preservation in the Library's state-of-the-art Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, counts for a lot in my book.
The Library has acknowledged that A Charlie Brown Christmas introduced Guaraldi's light and lovable original jazz themes from that TV special, as well as his jazz versions of both traditional and popular Christmas music, to an entirely new audience. It also guaranteed that Charles Schulz' heart-warming Peanuts family would become an indelible part of American folklore. As you listen to this irresistible album, it becomes clear that Guaraldi performed a minor miracle.
02 DEC 13 DAVID SHANNON
American Radical Patriot, Rounder’s recent Woody Guthrie compendium, peers deeply into the life and music of the bard of the proletariat, his Oklahoma origins and chronicling of the Dust Bowl migration and the songs he wrote traveling around the country as a performer and developing political activist.
Including five fascinating hours of the 27-year-old Guthrie storytelling and performing for famed musical archivist Alan Lomax at the Library of Congress in 1940, this limited release (only 5,000 copies) is a trove, also featuring a range of Guthrie ephemera such as radio dramas, songs written while working for the Bonneville Power Administration, public service announcements, and a host of other recordings that paint a vivid portrait of the man both as political rabble rouser and loyalist, all told through his own words and songs. This collection comprises six discs, a DVD, a 60-page booklet, a 78-rpm vinyl pressing, unpublished photos and Guthrie artwork, and a free 258-page download (in PDF format).
In terms of impact on American music, you’d be hard-pressed to find a musician as influential as Guthrie. He inspired a generation of songwriters in the '60s to change forever the way Americans listen to music, to understand how it could become a vehicle for protest and defiance and emblemize a social movement. Yet even that great legacy has humble beginnings, which is probably the whole point of Guthrie’s music and which this set celebrates.
29 NOV 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
"Black Friday," day one of the 2013 year-end holiday shopping season, is also Record Store Day, which independent record stores throughout the US will celebrate with stockings full of exclusive new collectible vinyl releases. Few of these releases will solicit good cheer like Fantasy Records' new Record Store Day edition of Vince Guaraldi's classic 1964 single "Linus and Lucy" backed with "Oh Good Grief," the pianist's timeless trio recordings with drummer Colin Bailey and bassist Monty Budwig, issued on gold vinyl with a new Peanuts cartoon picture sleeve.
At its rhythmic heart, the irresistibly two-fisted "Linus and Lucy" sings out the passion for samba and bossa nova that ignited Guaraldi's Jazz Impressions Of Black Orpheus (Original Jazz Classics Remasters, 2010) with this same trio. It's one of the most recognized and popular tunes ever recorded. Its flip side, "Oh Good Grief," swings a jaunty yet reflective two-minute boogie that glides and tumbles in and out of the blues.
This single accompanied the 1965 release of the first full Peanuts soundtrack, A Boy Named Charlie Brown (Fantasy, 1996). Both "Linus and Lucy" and "Oh Good Grief" are also available on Greatest Hits (Fantasy, '89) and more far-ranging, two-CD retrospective The Definitive Vince Guaraldi (Fantasy, 2009).
16 SEP 13 DAVID SHANNON
The list is long of musical acts with limited recordings but widespread fandom. Jeff Buckley made only one album, as did Lauren Hill, the Sex Pistols, and the Germs. The founding members of Big Star -- Alex Chilton and Chris Bell -- made two studio albums during their 1970s heyday (and Chilton went on to make two more as Big Star without Bell), and for all intents and purposes these first two, both available as #1 Record/Radio City, are the most representative of the band's pop sensibilities and knack for writing what should have been a string of hits.
Released on Fantasy, the two-records-as-one offer an appropriate combination that gives those unfamiliar with the band a feel for its best material in a single package. #1 Record/Radio City shows the potency of Chilton and Bell as a songwriting duo with all the creativity of Lennon and McCartney, Becker and Fagan, Gilmour and Waters, and other famous rock songwriting teams, but with a unique capacity for intense, glittering pop and rock that should have made them far more successful than they were.
Distribution issues with Stax hampered sales of #1 Record, and an eventual distribution deal between Stax and Columbia still failed to give the debut album and the following Radio City the airplay they deserved, despite excellent reviews for both albums. This unfortunate circumstance eventually conferred on the band something of an underground status among later listeners. I remember hearing the records for the first time in the '90s and wondering how they had escaped my attention until that point. Although Bell and Chilton have both passed away and didn't initially receive the credit they deserved for making two of the best rock records of the '70s, this dual release chronicles their most productive and powerful time as songwriters and musicians. It's a must have in any rock fan's collection.
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